Bird extirpations and community dynamics in an Andean cloud forest over 100 years of land-use change.
Long-term studies to understand biodiversity changes remain scarce-especially so for tropical mountains. We examined changes from 1911 to 2016 in the bird community of the cloud forest of San Antonio, a mountain ridge in the Colombian Andes. We evaluated the effects of past land-use change and assessed species vulnerability to climate disruption. Forest cover decreased from 95% to 50% by 1959, and 33 forest species were extirpated. From 1959 to 1990, forest cover remained stable, and an additional 15 species were lost-a total of 29% of the forest bird community. Thereafter, forest cover increased by 26% and 17 species recolonized the area. The main cause of extirpations was the loss of connections to adjacent forests. Of the 31 (19%) extirpated birds, 25 have ranges peripheral to San Antonio, mostly in the lowlands. Most still occurred regionally, but broken forest connections limited their recolonization. Other causes of extirpation were hunting, wildlife trade, and water diversion. Bird community changes included a shift from predominantly common species to rare species; forest generalists replaced forest specialists that require old growth, and functional groups, such as large-body frugivores and nectarivores, declined disproportionally. All water-dependent birds were extirpated. Of the remaining 122 forest species, 19 are vulnerable to climate disruption, 10 have declined in abundance, and 4 are threatened. Our results show unequivocal species losses and changes in community structure and abundance at the local scale. We found species were extirpated after habitat loss and fragmentation, but forest recovery stopped extirpations and helped species repopulate. Land-use changes increased species vulnerability to climate change, and we suggest reversing landscape transformation may restore biodiversity and improve resistance to future threats.
Palacio, RD; Kattan, GH; Pimm, SL
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